Thursday, July 20, 2006
A small group of Monterey activists want to prove that an “overwhelming majority” of the city’s residents oppose the controversial Public Service Center by putting the $14 million, 35,000-square-foot office complex to a vote.
Mike Dawkins is a spokesman for “Let The Voters Decide!” a grassroots group working to collect 1,500 signatures before a self-imposed Aug. 4 deadline. The state’s deadline for submitting measures for the November ballot is Aug. 11.
Dawkins says his group decided to try to put the issue on the November ballot after it became clear that the Monterey City Council wouldn’t consider alternatives to the contentious project.
“We stood in front of the council and suggested everything from an extended network [of buildings] across the city to a building along Pacific,” Dawkins says. “They never considered any of them. We said, ‘Please don’t do it. This is the most historic block in California.’ They were dead-set on this plan from the beginning.”
Old Monterey’s status as the most historic block in California is debatable. But if Dawkins’ group can gather the required signatures in time, Monterey voters will decide the fate of the new city center. Plans call for a three-building complex to be built behind Colton Hall in the heart of Old Monterey’s National Historic Landmark District.
“We really shouldn’t have an office building in a National Historic Landmark District,” Dawkins says. “We really shouldn’t have an office building in Colton Hall for that matter. So we’re trying to prevent it.
“Plus, it’s only designed to house 63 employees. It’s a monumental mistake.”
There is a precedent for the vote. In 1992, the Monterey City Council held an advisory vote on the city’s sports center. Unlike that project, Dawkins says, the proposed civic center has been rammed through the planning and permit process without public input. On July 12 the City Council approved a use permit for the project, voted to certify its environmental impact report and approved several zoning and general plan changes.
The signature gatherers don’t have a lot of time, and Dawkins knows his organization has its work cut out for it.
“We currently have about 30 petitions out,” Dawkins says. “The people we have working for us are committed. They’ll do what they can to get these signatures, but it’s going to be a long, hard slog.”
“LET THE VOTERS DECIDE!” WILL COLLECT SIGNATURES EVERY DAY, NOON-1PM, IN FRONT OF THE MONTEREY POST OFFICE AND 4-8PM EVERY TUESDAY DURING FARMERS MARKET ON ALVARADO STREET. ON SUNDAY, JULY 23, THE GROUP WILL ALSO GATHER SIGNATURES IN FRONT OF THE MONTEREY POST OFFICE FROM 9AM-4PM.